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We have a good selection of new films this week – five all told – and they should help to sustain us until cinemas re-open again. To think that it is a year since I last went to the Radway to watch Parasite! I am also very pleased to see that more classic TV series are being brought back, hopefully for the younger generation as well as those of us who have seen them before. On Wednesday, BBC 4 is starting a rerun of the 1971 series Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson. She is superb in the role and it deserved all the awards it received.
BEND OF THE RIVER (1952) Saturday 13 February 6.40-8.30pm Channel 25
This wasn’t the first Anthony Mann/James Stewart western (that was Winchester ’73), but it was the first where they explored their creative partnership and developed character and settings. Filmed in Technicolor, almost entirely on location, Stewart plays a man who has suffered personal wrongs and hardships – and inflicted them on others – who agrees to act as guide to a group of settlers. Arthur Kennedy is good, Rock Hudson has a modest but showy role and the film was good enough to be placed in several Top Ten lists over the years.
THE LITTLE STRANGER (2018) Saturday 13 February 9.00-11.15pm Channel 4 P
Not wholly successful, but it is an interesting supernatural horror film, from the director of Room (2015), that has a strong cast. Set in the 1940s, Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) makes a house call to a country residence where some very strange things are happening . . .
LOVE, SIMON (2018) Sunday 14 February 9.00-11.15pm Film Four P
There are three premières this evening, and they overlap, so you might need to make use of the catch-up services! First up, is this inspired choice for Valentine’s Day – Hollywood’s first teen- romance drama to feature a prominent, and indispensable, gay character.
BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE (2018) Sunday 14 February 10.00-11.35pm BBC 4 P
Britt-Marie is a sixty-something Swedish housewife who leaves her feckless husband and decides that she will have a go at coaching a youth football team. So, pretend it is Film Society Sunday, sit back and enjoy!
EDIE (2017) Sunday 14 February 10.45pm-12.20am BBC 2 P
See notes for Thursday evening.
THE SILVER FLEET (1943) Monday 15 February 10.30am-12.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The Silver Fleet is typical of its time and place – well made (under restrictions), and acted, with a good storyline that was also effective propaganda, and supported both the war effort at home and those in Europe who were offering resistance. Richardson is a Dutch engineer who risks his life to destroy a U-boat.
A QUIET PLACE (2018) Monday 15 February 9.00-10.45pm Film Four
It is almost unheard of for me to select a film that we have included before, but we need A Quiet Place for a very quiet evening! It is the one where alien invaders rely on their hearing to detect human survivors. It is a memorable effort, although the adverts do dissipate the tension a little.
A TOUCH OF LARCENY (1959) Tuesday 16 February 4.00-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Comedy wasn’t really James Mason’s forte, but the British press lavished praise on him for this rarely seen offering. He plays an ex-submarine officer who, after falling in love with a friend’s fiancée (Vera Miles), concocts a cunning plan to win her affection.
THE HITCH-HIKER (1953) Tuesday 16 February 12 midnight-1.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Ida Lupino treats us to a taut 70 minutes when, on a hunting trip, Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy pick up a psychotic hitch-hiker. It is the sort of B-thriller that RKO did very well; if its impact on viewers has lessened, it is because there have been so many imitations since.
IKE: COUNTDOWN TO D-DAY (2004) Wednesday 17 February 7.25-9.10am Channel 41
On cue after writing recently about American presidents, here is Tom Selleck as Dwight D. Eisenhower, holding his nerve as the Allies agonise over ‘when to go’ for the invasion of Normandy.
EVEREST (2015) Wednesday 17 February 6.40-9.00pm Film Four
Prior to its release, I was tracking Everest as a potential booking for Lyme and Sidmouth. Based on actual events in 1996, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin are rival climbers; Baltasar Kormakur directed the excellent Icelandic TV drama Trapped, so must have been used to the cold!
THE KEY (1958) Thursday 18 February 4.45-7.15pm Channel 41
Another coincidence – after writing about film locations in Dorset, The Key is given an airing. With direction by Carol Reed and William Holden, Sophia Loren and Trevor Howard heading the cast, you might expect one of the best films of the 1950s – but it is not, I am afraid. Ms Loren comes off best as the landlady who comforts a succession of naval officers and it does hold the interest, but it is also dull in patches and a little odd. Catch an early glimpse of Michael Caine!
EDIE (2017) Thursday 18 February 9.00-10.35pm BBC 4
Here is another film that we flirted with – which is not too surprising, as there are usually about 35 on the questionnaire. In this case, Sheila Hancock is a British housewife and mother, like Britt-May at the wrong end of a failed marriage, who, rather than coaching football, decides she will climb a mountain in Scotland.
APACHE DRUMS (1951) Friday 19 February 12.50-2.25pm Film Four
Another modest B-film, this time a Technicolor western from Universal-International, that punches above its weight. Producer Val Lewton’s final film (his B-unit had made horror classics such as Cat People at RKO) stars Stephen McNally (usually the villain of the piece) as gambler ‘Sam Slick’, who returns to Spanish Boot to warn the citizens of an impending attack. Sharing some similarities with The Lost Patrol (1934), Lewton’s trademark use of shadow and dark interiors help the tension to build towards an exciting climax.
STAN & OLLIE (2019) Friday 19 February 8.25-10.00pm BBC 1 P
What a lovely way to end the week – we have the Freeview debut of a (largely) gentle, respectful part-biography of comedy giants Laurel and Hardy. Although there is a marvellous opening sequence on the set of Way Out West (1937), the focus is on the twilight of their careers and their 1953 tour of Britain. John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are both superb, but I think Coogan (as Stan) just edges it. When I saw it at the Radway, I left with just a couple of minor criticisms: to be truly reflective it should be cert. U (not even PG) and (this might sound crazy) funnier, in a laugh-out-loud kind of way.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
HELLO MR POSTMAN!
The Royal Mail has maintained a wonderful service during the pandemic, especially prior to Christmas, and is now working hard to guarantee those Valentine deliveries. So, it seemed the right moment to think about postmen up there on the big screen . . .
We shouldn’t really include The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946 and 1981) as, although both John Garfield and later Jack Nicholson came knocking, it wasn’t with a delivery. There was also an earlier, Italian version of James M Cain’s celebrated novel, Ossessione (1942), directed by Luchino Visconti, and a French one before that. We have shown Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fête (1949) twice over the years; he had tried out the story and comedy routines two years earlier in the short L’Ecole des Facteurs. In 1930s Britain, post-related shorts were part of the legendary GPO Film Unit’s output; they included Post-Haste (1934), one of two shorts that year that launched the career of Humphrey Jennings. In the US, Walter Brennan played George the mailman in a rather touching 1943 short The Last Will and Testament of Tom Smith. There have been several films, over the years, about the Pony Express, the earliest being in 1907 and the best-known one being Charlton Heston’s in 1953. The myths associated with it far outweigh the reality, of course – the actual Pony Express lasted 18 months, doomed by the invention of the telegraph. A better American film featuring a member of the postal service as action hero was Appointment with Danger (1950), with Alan Ladd, which we reviewed recently.
In Britain, Postman’s Knock (1961) was conceived as a vehicle for Spike Milligan, but it is pretty dire. Much better, although the postmen are, shall we say, unofficial ones are The Go-Between (1971), lovingly shot in Norfolk, and The Lunchbox (2013), lovingly shot in India. Also in Britain – during a Cook’s tour of London, to be precise – ransom money was removed from a postbox via an underground sewer in Brannigan (1975). The dispatch rider used as a decoy – and who ended up in some very uninviting water – was none other than Tony Robinson.
More recently, a most intriguing idea was aired in The Postman (1997). Here, the postman (Kevin Costner) delivered 15-year-old mail in what remains of the United States after a world war has devastated the planet in 2013. It was hugely expensive, long (170 minutes plus) and a huge flop – and since Costner also directed, then it is fair to say the responsibility was his. The best film to feature a postman was a much simpler affair, of course – the delightful Il Postino, released three years earlier. Excluding, to be sure, Postman Pat: the Movie (2013) - the big screen incarnation of the UK’s favourite postal worker!
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